Christianity is a Religion of Power and Without it, We are Dead
Pastor Jeff VanGoethem
To this end we ALWAYS PRAY for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith BY HIS POWER” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
I have been working through the New Testament the last couple of weeks in my own devotions exploring the term “power” (dynamis). The irony of such an exercise has come home to me: how absolutely indispensible and prominent this concept is in the New Testament and how utterly unnecessary and forgotten it is to us in the modern church. It has been an eye-opening exercise.
The term appears about 120 times in the New Testament. The Greek lexicons usually speak of “power” (dynamis) as a characteristic of God, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and the mighty works and interventions that flow into lives from them. That is, power dwells in God and extends outward from Him to touch this world and the lives of people (Romans 1:19-20, 9:17, Hebrews 1:3, Revelation 4:11). The New Testament makes clear that God’s kingdom is advanced by God’s power (Mark 9:1, 1 Corinthians 4:19-20). It is obvious that such power characterized the ministries of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles. But does it characterize our ministries today?
Here are a few things said to be caused by the power of God:
- Conversion of sinners (Luke 1:17, Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 24; 2:4-5, 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
- Spiritual growth and effective Christian living (Romans 15:13, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, 2 Timothy 1:7, 2 Peter 1:3).
- Bold and effective witnessing (Acts 1:8).
- Healing (Luke 5:17, Acts 3:12, 4:7).
- Defeat of Satan and his kingdom (Luke 4:36)
- Persevering and overcoming faith (2 Corinthians 4:7, 2 Corinthians 12:9, 2 Timothy 1:8).
- Enablement in ministry (Ephesians 3:7, 20)
As we look at this list, we realize that without God’s power we are dead in the water. We have no ministry. Everything in ministry comes by power.
Without the power of God we will not see or experience conversions, dynamic spiritual growth, effective ministry, strong evangelism, healings, the beating back of Satan’s kingdom, supernatural enablement in ministry or overcoming faith. Again, without the power of God we have no ministry of any life changing consequence.
Sad to say, it is fairly obvious that this is often the typical experience of American believers and churches. There is no power. No conversions, no victories, no boldness, no evangelism, no defeats of Satan, no overcoming faith, no enablement for glorious ministry, and so forth. We limp along, trying to get God’s work done somehow, failing to realize that without His power, it won’t and can’t get done! Then we look at our failures and try to find someone to blame: the pastor, the church, the Elders, the world, the culture, everything and anything except what is the real root of the issue – we have no power from God.
Interestingly, the New Testament also points out the typical substitutes that we seek when we are devoid of God’s power. They are:
- Empty words – we will look to clever words and motivational speaking to try and imitate the results of true preaching and its effects (1 Thessalonians 1:5, 1 Corinthians 4:19-20).
- Appearances – we will attempt to manufacture something that resembles ministry, but it is not true, God-empowered ministry (2 Timothy 3:5).
- Human ingenuity – we will resort to demonstrations of human wisdom, cleverness, and ability in order to imitate the fruits and results of true ministry, but in the end it is just a show (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
- Satanic works – some go so far as to substitute the works of Satan and claim they are from God, sometimes unwittingly, but this only brings disorder and disillusionment (2 Thessalonians 2:9, Acts 8:10).
The truth is that imitations are not evidences of the power of God. It should dawn on us at some point that true Christianity is a religion of power – a religion that advances by power — and if we do not have evidences of God’s power in our lives and ministries, something is terribly wrong (2 Corinthians 6:7).
So how do we get this power? Well, the New Testament says God has it and wants to give it to us. We can only get it from Him! There are promises given and prayers spoken that we should be aware of:
- “You shall receive POWER when the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . .” (Acts 1:8).
- “. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the father of glory, may give you . . . what is the immeasurable greatness of HIS POWER TOWARD US WHO BELIEVE, ACCORDING TO THE WORKING OF HIS GREAT MIGHT . . .”
- “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father . . . that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you TO BE STRENGTHENED WITH POWER THROUGH HIS SPIRIT IN YOUR INNER BEING . . .”
- “To this end we ALWAYS PRAY for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith BY HIS POWER” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
Power only comes from God and only He can dispense it to His own (Luke 9:1, 10:19). We also see evidence in the New Testament that God’s power was sought through prayer.
Why do we need to return to the place of prayer? Because there will be no power without the cultivation of absolute dependence on God. God isn’t interested in glorifying us, He is interested in being known as the all sufficient God of salvation. Yet time and time again we resort to human artifice to do something in ministry: money, schemes, buildings, programs, gatherings, events, music, concerts, everything but what is necessary: the prayer meeting. So instead of receiving what God can give, we try to work something up on our own. But the truth is: no prayer, no power. Only God has it, only He can give it. And so it must be sought from His hand.
The church’s first experience of power was the day of Pentecost. What was that feeble, huddled group doing when the power of God fell on them? See Acts 1:14. What should we be doing in this age of powerless churches and powerless Christians? See Acts 1:14.
It is clear that something must radically change in the American church. That change is repentance, humility, and the absolute conviction that we need the power of God. We must return to the place of prayer, to seek God, that He might make us “worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith BY HIS POWER” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
True Christianity is a religion of power. And God alone is the source of that power. Therefore for powerless Christians and churches, the only place we can go is to the place of prayer. For Christians and churches that will not pray, there is no hope of a true ministry of power.